Col ® Muhammad Hanif
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a strategic project, which was signed between China and Pakistan in 2015. This mega project comprises the construction of a network of roads, railways, airports, industrial zones and communication system by laying fibre optic (Kashghar to Islamabad) from Kashghar city of western China to Gwadar seaport of Balochistan, Pakistan, including construction and expansion of deep sea ports of Gwadar itself. The CPEC project is being built with an initial Chinese investment of $ 46 billion, which has been further enhanced to $ 65 billion.
Because of its potential to help increase trade volume, attract investment, boost industrial development, increase agricultural production and enhance employment opportunities for the people of the region, the CPEC would definitely act as a game changer for transforming the economic conditions of the people of Pakistan, China, other SCO member states and South Asian countries. This would be done by facilitating their mutual cooperation in improving their security environment by resolving their mutual disputes, enhancing their cooperation in economic development, addressing poverty and ultimately bringing prosperity to their people.
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states and South Asian countries belong to the neighbouring regions, which are now being linked with the construction of the CPEC. Central Asian States (CARs) remained landlocked for a very long time due to being a part of the former Soviet Union and because of the cold war and hence full trading opportunities were not available to them. Because of the cold war, even China and Russia were not able to use Karachi seaport for carrying out trade with the remaining world. Especially the Soviet Union was unable to reach warmer waters using the Karachi seaport. Even, since their independence in 1991, CARs are unable to trade with South Asia and other parts of the world using Karachi port because of lack of peace and stability in Afghanistan for the last about 18 years.
Now, with the construction of the CPEC, there is a hope that the CARs and other South Asian countries will like to avail the opportunity of mutual economic cooperation and development through exploiting trade avenues and attracting foreign investment. Because of the economic incentives for these regions linked with the CPEC, the chances are very bright that the regional countries would like to prefer geoeconomics over geopolitics to draw economic benefits through mutual cooperation in trade and investment-oriented relations. To achieve these objectives the SCO member states and South Asian countries would like to show flexibility in improving mutual trust and resolving their mutual disputes to make the regional political and security environment favourable to facilitate their economic cooperation.
Now that Pakistan and India have become permanent members of the SCO, China, Russia and CARs would like that as SCO member countries India and Pakistan should improve their mutual relations. Also China and Russia, which enjoy good mutual relations, would like to help Pakistan and India to improve their mutual relations by resolving their outstanding disputes through negotiations. Moreover, SCO’s summits and official meetings, also to be attended by Pakistan and India, would also enable Pakistan and Indian policy-makers and officials to interact more with each other that will enhance their mutual trust. Thus China, Russia and CARs, all interested to join the CPEC would be wishing and willing to contribute towards improving Pakistan-India relations that will facilitate the development of relations between the aforementioned countries and South Asian states, thus improving the overall regional environment to use the CPEC to its full potential for conducting trade, investing in other countries, also facilitating people-to-people contacts and encouraging regional tourism.
The above discussion indicates that the construction of the CPEC carries a lot of potential to improve trade relations between the SCO member states and South Asian countries. And this major incentive will have a positive impact on changing the attitude of South Asian countries on developing good mutual relations by resolving their mutual disputes on a priority basis, for the sake of reaping CPEC-related benefits. Hence it can be concluded with a strong logic that the CPEC would definitely help in boosting relations of SCO member states with the South Asian countries, as CPEC-related economic incentives of these two regions would far outweigh the so- called political gains by perpetuating mutual disputes.
While CPEC motivated improved relations will help the countries of both regions to reap trade benefits to improve their economies and attain prosperity to the economic wellbeing of their people, this will also motivate the Afghanistan people and other regional and major powers to build peace in Afghanistan on a priority basis, this will also encourage Pakistan and India to cultivate good mutual relations by resolving their mutual disputes through a sustainable dialogue.